Civic engagement is the act of giving back to the community and demonstrating citizenship. The theme of the 2012 Civic Engagement Day is “Youth Against Poverty.” During Civic Engagement Day, 4-H’ers will focus on areas in their community where poverty hits the hardest: children and senior citizens. Nationwide, one in six elderly citizens lives below the poverty line, while one in four children go to bed hungry. 4-H believes that it is the responsibility of America’s youth to realize the problems in their communities and to act. Youth are encouraged to be educated and then educate their peers, so they can capitalize on every opportunity to solve America’s problems. 4-H desires to inspire youth to make a change in the world around them.
The Tri-State Civic Engagement Day will take place Saturday to end National 4-H Week, which began Oct. 7. National 4-H Week celebrates youth development and recognizes the many participants and volunteers of 4-H clubs. Kentucky has more than 228,000 active youth and more than 22,000 volunteers. School 4-H Clubs perform many community service activities through their classroom projects. Some school clubs collect items for the animal shelter, Christ’s Hands and the military serving overseas.
The Harlan County 4-H Teen Clubs have decided to spend Civic Engagement Day, Oct. 13, with Harlan County’s Mountain Santa wrapping presents. This will be the second community service project for the Harlan County Teen Clubs this school year. Spending the day helping Mountain Santa was an easy decision to make because it involves so many children.
Christmas in Harlan County would be less merry for many children without the generosity of Mike Howard. The Wallins man, given the title of “Mountain Santa” by the Louisville Courier-Journal, has spent over half his life rounding up toys for children who may otherwise be without on Christmas day. This December will mark the 36th Christmas the Howard legacy has been attempting to find every needy child possible, to add a little something extra to their holiday. “We started out with one truck,” Howard said. “Last year we delivered 113 truckloads.”
Howard said over 80 people usually show up for the Christmas Eve delivery. “We use 27 to 29 trucks that day alone,” Howard said. “I have seen some of the saddest home situations,” and Howard smiles when he remembers the faces of children he has brought so much happiness to over the years. It has just kept growing through the years. Mountain Santa doesn’t just give out toys, he gives out treat bags to the families of the children and to senior citizens as well.
Most of the donations for the Christmas project come from Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. “I have volunteers who come in to help me wrap the toys,” Howard said. “They also bring gifts to distribute with them when they come. That really helps me out a lot. This has gotten so big, I just couldn’t do it all myself.” Howard states that he has been working for two weeks getting things ready and is excited to work with the Harlan 4-H Teen Club for Civic Engagement Day.
Harlan County 4-H Teen Club members (Saturday and Monday Clubs) will meet at the Extension Depot on Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. and travel to Santa’s Workshop in Wallins. Teens are encouraged to bring a roll of Christmas Wrap.
For more information contact Raymond Cox, 4-H/Youth Development Agent at email@example.com, or the Harlan County Extension Office at 573-4464 or 273-0835.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.